Scaling heights: Sarah Tetzlaff's Olympic climbing dreams + environmental passions

Scaling heights: Sarah Tetzlaff's Olympic climbing dreams + environmental passions

Speed Climbers Julian David and Sarah Tetzlaff are the first official athletes to be selected for the New Zealand team heading to Paris later this year. The pair are also the first climbers to be selected for a New Zealand Olympic team.

Sarah Tetzlaff joins Dom George to share insights into her dual career as an elite speed climber and an environmental scientist. She discusses the highly standardised nature of Olympic speed climbing, with uniform climbing walls used worldwide to ensure fairness. 

"All of the holds are in the exact same positions, on the exact same angles, down to like a two-millimetre tolerance on each hold," she explains, emphasising the precision required in the sport. 

Her commitment to the discipline is evident as she reveals her rigorous training regimen.

 "I've done that route probably I don't know maybe 10,000 times... I don't look at my feet when I'm on the wall, so I'm just looking up the entire time." 

Despite being relatively new to speed climbing, Tetzlaff's personal best time of 8.54 seconds is a testament to her rapid improvement, although she acknowledges that "I've still got a little bit of a way to go" when comparing her time to the women's world record of 6.24 seconds. 

Her focus and mental fortitude are crucial, especially considering the pressure of the Olympic format where athletes have limited attempts to post their best times. Balancing her climbing career, Tetzlaff also pursues her passion for environmental science, having won the Waikato Regional Council Prize in water science. 

She's working on a master's degree, researching the impact of leaking septic tanks on Lake Tarawera's water quality. 

"I do really want to make a difference... I love our special places and I want to protect them." 

The conversation also touches on her recreational activities, highlighting a common misconception about speed climbers.

"People think that when you're, you know like an indoor climber or you do this thing like speed climbing, that you don't also love rock climbing." 

Tetzlaff clarifies that she indeed loves rock climbing but has shifted to less impactful activities like surfing and mountain biking due to time constraints. 

Throughout the episode, Tetzlaff's story shines as an inspiring example of how one can excel in both the sporting world and in academic pursuits, striving to reach the pinnacle of athletic achievement while committing to environmental stewardship. 

Her journey serves as a beacon for those looking to merge their athletic passions with a greater purpose.

Listen to the full chat between Sarah Tetzlaff and Dominic George above.

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